Wenstrup targeted for assassination

Congressman Brad Wenstrup never expected to be dodging gunfire at a baseball field near Washington, DC, but that is exactly the situation he was in on the morning of June 14.
Wenstrup was practicing with other members of the Republican congressional baseball team for a charity baseball game when the group came under rifle fire.
66 year old James Hodgkinson, who according to national news reports had just asked a nearby member of congress if the group on the field were Democrats or Republicans, had begun firing on the group from the third base side of the field.
“I’ve been in this situation before, but never without my armor and weapon and infantry support,” said Wenstrup in an interview with The Brown County Press.
“I heard the first shot and thought ‘was that what I thought it was?’ and then I heard Congressman Trent Kelly yell ‘He’s got a gun!  Shooter!’  I don’t know how he missed Trent, he was aiming for him because Trent was playing third base.  On the second or third shot, he hit Steve Scalise,” Wenstrup said.
“He went down and everybody else hit the deck and started crawling off the field or trying to hide around the first base dugout.”
Wenstrup said the group, which included United States senators and members of congress, their staffers and others, performed well under sudden stress.
“They did what they needed to do to try and continue to keep themselves in a safe place was pretty impressive to see,” Wenstrup said.
Scalise is the third highest ranking member of the House of Representatives and had two Capitol Police officers with him as a security detail.
Both officers engaged Hodgkinson with their sidearms.  The gunman was armed with a rifle, which is a severe tactical mismatch.  Regardless, both officers continued to return fire, even though both were eventually wounded in the exchange.
“The Capitol Police that were there are tremendous heroes.  It was unbelieveable how they took this guy on, who was well equipped with ammunition and maneuvering,” Wenstrup said.
Hodgkinson kept moving and firing, shooting at both the capitol police officers and the members of congress.
“He kind of drove everyone in the direction of the first base side and then he went outside the gate.  We were still outside the gate and in the dugout,” Wenstrup said.
“He comes out between the buildings and the home plate fence and now he’s shooting a handgun, and that’s when they got position on him and were able to take him down.”
Besides Scalise, three others were wounded by gunfire and two suffered secondary injuries.
About ten seconds after the last shot was fired, Wenstrup, a medical doctor, was running out on the field to get to the wounded Scalise.
In a widely seen video of the shooting scene, a voice can be heard near the end saying “Get back, Brad!”  Wenstrup is then heard, saying “I’m going to go give aid to Steve.”
Wenstrup said he was keeping an eye on Scalise during the chaos.
“From where I was laying I could see Steve moving around and that was encouraging, so I kept watching that,” Wenstrup said.
Wenstrup and Senator Jeff Flake administered aid to Scalise while waiting for medical help to arrive.  Wenstrup examined his wound and applied pressure to stop the bleeding.
Wenstrup said that things could have been much worse without the immediate reaction of Scalise’s security detail.
“If Steve’s not there, he doesn’t get hit, but if Steve’s not there, maybe we all do,” he said.
Once the danger was over, Wenstrup thought about his wife.
“I called her right away.  Fortunately, she was asleep and didn’t know anything about it.  But when she stepped into my office a few hours later and saw me in my baseball gear and blood on my gloves, she started crying.  There is an emotional toll not just on those who were there, but their families as well.” Wenstrup said.
He added that the level of political venom in this country needs to lessen quickly before others get hurt.
“I’m just going to be blunt.  ‘Resist’ is not a policy.  This stuff is destroying our country from within.  I’m worried that we are developing a society that is normalizing things like violence and political attacks.  Threatening to harm people out to get a little more notice than it does.” Wenstrup said.
“The writing has been on the wall.  The things that people are saying to us.  The things that are showing up on our Facebook or messages that are left are just terrible.  Members have been getting violent threats.  It’s just been horrific.”
Wenstrup called on members of congress and others to set a better example than they have been so far.
“When you see breaks in decorum like members engaging in a sit-in on the house floor, that does not set a good tone…I’m calling on everyone to be more civil.  Sometimes it’s members of congress who cross the line, sometimes it’s the press and sometimes it’s individuals on social media or in various groups.  It’s got to stop.”
Wenstrup said that the American political system is set up to work without violence or name calling.
“If you don’t like who is in charge, then you have an opportunity in just a few years to try and vote them out.  It’s not appropriate to try and destroy the country from within just because you don’t like the result,” he said.
Wenstrup said that current the tone on Capitol Hill is one of cooperation.  He said he hopes that it lasts.
“I hope that it’s more than just a few days where people are saying ‘We can do better as a people.’  One of my favorite quotes from John Paul II when he came to America was ‘Freedom consists not in doing what you will, but having the right to do as you ought.’  And that’s what we need to see more of.”
That spirit may already be working with the general public.  Wenstrup said that the baseball game raised about $600,000 for charity last year, but that one person has already pledged a $500,000 donation to Capitol Hill police this year.